The way retailers are thinking about deploying digital is changing, says Kathy Kimple of FitForCommerce.
We caught up with Kimple at NRF’s Big Show earlier this year, where she talked in a video interview about FitForCommerce’s rankings of the best omnichannel retailers. The category that stood out for excellence might surprise you. But Kimple explains below that the notable enterprises in the category had one thing in common.
In fairness, the results that Kimple talks about in the video are somewhat blended. FitForCommerce’s “Omnichannel Retail Index,” produced in partnership with NRF, ranked retailers in three categories: web, mobile and cross-channel. So while department stores ranked well, the report overall produced a top 30 in which department stores were represented.
The researchers used a mystery shopper process to look at how 120 retailers performed on a checklist of 250 criteria across all three channels.
Kimple said one conclusion from the work is that digital doesn’t mean just ecommerce anymore. It’s not just ecommerce and mobile anymore either, for that matter. Now digital is as important for in-store sales as it is for online sales. Kimple explains that successful omnichannel retailers, according to the “Omnichannel Retail Index” use digital to bring customers into the store.
Retailers, she told us, aren’t just looking at what digital can do for revenue, “but what can digital do to drive customers into stores and create a differentiated customer experience.”
Yes, serving consumers anywhere, anytime on any device or in a store does bring its challenges, Kimple says.
“The challenges start to become,” Kimple says, “if the inventory is inaccurate, what do you do?”
But providing such flexibility is essentially a must-have.
“It helps retailers deal with what we might call the Amazon Effect of a customer who now thinks it’s the norm that I get my order in two days,” she said. “If I’m a retailer and I’m really going omnichannel, I can ship from store and get it to you faster.”
The most recent version of FitForCommerce’s annual report is the fourth the consultancy has produced. Kimple says she is seeing steady improvement in the omnichannel experiences that retailers are providing. Indeed, the report shows that services including reserve online, pickup in store; buy online, pickup in store and buy online, return in store, have all increased year over year.
That said, there is still room to improve, especially in the areas of reserving and buying online to pick up in store. It seems a safe bet, then, that there will be another omnichannel index next year.
Photo by Mike Cassidy
Contact Mike Cassidy at m[email protected]; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.